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Thinking Out Loud: Implicit Bias

Thinking Out Loud: Implicit Bias

Last year, during a debate on legislation, I used the words “defendant, “perpetrator,” and “prisoner.”  One of my colleagues from across the aisle proceeded to state that my remarks were racist. It struck me as odd — I used three words and despite the fact that it was my colleague who visualized the meaning of those words, I was labeled the racist.

If you are prompted to think of a particular race after hearing those three words, if it triggers you, just as it did my colleague, then I suggest you consider looking at your own inherent or implicit bias — regardless of your own race, gender, or nationality.  We all need to look in the mirror.

The reality is that we all have inherent or implicit bias.  The challenge is to recognize it and overcome the predisposed stereotypes we all have.  You can say you don’t have any, but if you really look deep in that mirror, you will see them.  That doesn’t make you a racist; perhaps that makes you human.  The greater challenge is to overcome those stereotypes, to move past the implicit bias, so that each of us can be a better person.

Stay with me for a little bit longer …  let’s try something.  Read the following descriptions and visualize the first thing that comes to your mind:

They are all drunks …
They all have fur coats and a benefit card …
They all own diners …
They are all in the mob …
They are lousy drivers …
They all own 7-Elevens …

Think about your answers … Most likely, you associated those statements as stereotypes of a certain ethnicity.  You may even associate them with your own ethnicity, even if it doesn’t fit you individually.  My intention here is to get you to think, and to make you work toward being a better you.

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